In January, Pope Francis released a message for the world on communication. His thoughts on technology have been widely discussed and debated, but no one can argue that his thoughtful approach to technology has opened the door for clergy to reach people in a way they never have before. Churches and ministries are now widely encouraged to adopt digital technology to create real human connection. He states, “Communication is ultimately a human rather than a technological achievement.”
As leaders in the mobile fundraising industry
We have developed a sophisticated suite of communication, engagement and fundraising tools that empower communities of faith to reach people where they spend the most time: On their mobile devices.The average American spends 2.4 hours per day on “non-voice mobile activities” (According to eMarketer). That figure jumps to 5.1 hours when you factor in online activity. That means that the average American spends more than 30% of their waking hours interacting with digital media.
This is one of the reasons why we loved Pope Francis’ message on communication. He cuts through the digital hype and gives us the heartbeat of what digital media ministry should be,
“It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters…The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness. The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.”
But there is still a large gap in what church leadership is encouraging and what people understand. According to the Pew Research center, almost 30% of U.S. Catholics say they don’t know what is the most important way that the Catholic Church helps society today (29%). Only 3% believe that providing a place to worship is the most important societal contribution.
With so many believers experiencing a feeling of disconnection from the mission of the church, there has never been a more important time to reach the people in our communities of faith and the people searching for community.
For the past 4 years as a mobile strategist and a person of faith…
I have seen churches, ministries and service organizations make the same mistake over and over. They either don’t adopt technology at all or they become more excited about the new technology than the people it’s designed to serve. Typically this results in the launch of a campaign that is more about the money or the method than the message.I have continually urged my clients to think about the ways in which they can serve their communities using technology. Instead of running a text to give campaign, send a daily prayer during Lent. Instead of taking a special offering, empower your youth group to raise the funds for your homeless shelter from their friends and families.
One of my most successful clients…
is constantly thinking about how to use text messaging to create moments of prayer and reflection in her audience. She sends weekly prayers and thoughtful reminders. But this Easter, she did something phenomenal. She created a 3-day digital experience from Good Friday to Easter sending hour by hour text updates on the story of Jesus.
Thousands of people across the Midwest walked the Via Dolorosa, experienced the cross and rejoiced in the resurrection story.Their subscribers doubled.Then doubled again.
We were shocked by the response. Without being prompted, people were texting their friends instructions to subscribe. The count was growing hour by hour, completely by word of mouth.
This campaign taught us that people want to be served meaningful messages that enhance their faith. It taught us that they aren’t afraid to get a text message from a church or a Christian service organization. It taught us that it wasn’t the text, it was the message – that mattered.
This to me was an open door for so many people, people who may not have ever attended a service, but were willing to receive a text.
It was exactly what Pope Francis said,
“Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone.”
It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people…
Before you start a mobile initiative, be sure that your campaign will do one of the following things: Foster Faith – Foster Community – Foster Generosity – Foster Acts of Service.
With these principles in mind, our team of mobile experts put together this guideline for using mobile in a church or Christian service ministry.
• Send prayer – Daily or weekly prayer messages can act as reminders to take a moment to pray. They can get us focused on others and help us to see outside of ourselves. They can also help cut through the noise of 21st century life and provide moments for people to be present with God.
• Send scripture – The average service is 1 hour long, but 1 hour a week isn’t a lot of time to teach. Use a mid-week text to send a scripture based message that will encourage people and keep the scripture at the front of mind.
• Let people ask questions – Allow congregants to text their questions about faith. You’ll learn a lot about what people are struggling with and be able to address those things more quickly and easily.
• Text anyone under 40 – Anyone under 40 is an avid texter. When you have important info to share with them, text it.
• Make prayer requests public – MobileCause has amazing on screen tools. People send a text and they appear on screen in real time. These interactions can be designed so that prayer requests are seen instantly.
• Enhance your catechism program – Your catechism students are already texting, why not have them texting you? Send them quizzes between Sundays or offer thoughtful experiential homework mid-week. You could even set up messages for the parents reminding them of the lesson each week.
• Make giving easier – It takes less than 90 seconds to set up a recurring gift using a MobileCause form. It’s the fastest and most efficient way to receive funds. We even have plans that have zero transaction fees, so that more money goes to what matters.
• Empower your teenagers – Imagine empowering your teenagers and young adults to fundraise for your social programs. Our personal fundraising tool allows you to set up unlimited pages. Teenagers probably aren’t as disinterested in church as you might think. They need a place where they are needed, where they are responsible to accomplish something. Give them a task, have them fundraise, text or tweet on your behalf. You may find that they are amazing advocates.